U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Rep. Goodlatte:
The National Lawyers Guild wishes to convey in the strongest terms our objection to the so-called “Venezuela Liberty Act” recently introduced in the House by Congressman Joe Garcia from Florida. H.R. 944 deserves to be rejected as a blatant misuse of the legislative process and a perverse distortion of U.S. immigration policy. H.R. 944 would grant eligibility for relief from deportation and permanent residency status to any Venezuelan who entered the U.S. from the day Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela until the day before he died. Under the bill, there would be no requirement for an applicant to prove persecution or any other harm and no specific residency term. Spouses and unmarried children would be guaranteed derivative status.
While devastating earthquakes and hurricanes have to take place for nationals of Haiti and El Salvador to be eligible for Temporary Protected Status, Mr. Garcia proposes to allow wealthy Venezuelans fleeing a democratic and socially progressive government with the lowest income inequality in the region to relocate permanently to the U.S. Hugo Chavez was re-elected on October 5, 2012 with double-digit margins and an unprecedented (80.49%) turnout. Since the 1999 Constitution committed elections to the well-respected and independent National Electoral Council, the polling process has been deemed by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to be the best among the 92 elections his center has monitored. Despite Mr. Garcia’s overblown rhetoric casting Hugo Chavez as a dictator, the people of Venezuela elected Chavez as their President by overwhelming margins at every possible opportunity.
Since Chavez first launched the Bolivarian Project, the massive reduction in poverty and expansion of state services has benefited millions of formerly marginalized Venezuelans and brought them into the political process. In the course of numerous NLG delegations to Venezuela, we have witnessed firsthand the impact of the Chavez government’s promotion of the rights of the Venezuelan people—including housing, healthcare, employment, and education. These are fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Clearly some members of the elite classes who formerly controlled the country and its riches are not happy with this opening and many have taken advantage of the opportunity to relocate to Mr. Garcia’s district. Any consideration given to H.R. 944 would be a blatant giveaway to corporate interests and a slap in the face to the hemisphere’s most deserving refugees.
Azadeh Shahshahani, National Lawyers Guild President